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27 September, 2018 - 11:12 By Tony Quested

Arm chip drives unprecedented autonomous vehicle safety on silicon highway

Cambridge technology gamechanger Arm has unveiled a superchip that it believes will revolutionise the safety of autonomous vehicles around the globe.

It has delivered what it brands ‘a bumper to bumper’ solution designed to accelerate mass-market autonomous driving. The technology promises to literally deliver a new generation of self-driven vehicles on a super-slick silicon highway.

Arm chips are already the power behind the throne of design and performance for the world’s leading manufacturers in the automotive industry.The UK business has been designing chips for automotive applications since 1996 and claimed today: “Only Arm can address the compute needs of the entire vehicle from bumper to bumper. 

“It’s why the top 15 automotive chip makers are Arm licensees, and why Arm-based silicon powers more than 65 per cent of today’s ADAS applications as well as 85 percent of IVI applications. 

“By delivering safe, autonomous-class compute solutions to the industry, Arm and its ecosystem are ensuring safety is not an afterthought and helping car makers earn the consumer trust required for the mass deployment of safe and fully-autonomous vehicles.”

Arm says it is “leading the charge for safety to accelerate mass-market autonomous driving” with its ahead-of-the-curve technology: Optimised for 7nm, its Cortex-A76AE is the world’s first autonomous-class processor with integrated safety, high-performance, leading-efficiency and security IP options.

Lakshmi Mandyam, vice-president of automotive, Embedded and Automotive Line of Business at Arm said: “In my role as Arm’s automotive lead, my team and I are constantly talking with both carmakers and our automotive ecosystem discussing progress toward fully-autonomous driving.

“Safety is the highest priority for carmakers we talk with, for both the obvious technology factors associated with autonomous systems controlling all aspects of driving, but also to ensure that human passengers can trust their automated driver.

“If consumers don’t trust the autonomous systems in their cars are safe, then mass market acceptance of this technology will be slow to happen.

“Ironically, it’s a human factor, driver error, autonomous driving is expected to eliminate. Considering 94 per cent of all accidents are a result of driver error, fully-autonomous driving is expected to significantly reduce the number of accidents and fatalities.

“It is why safety cannot be an afterthought and take a back seat to performance, power-efficiency and security when developing autonomous-class SoCs and systems. 

“Unfortunately, the path to level 5 autonomy has been paved with prototypes, often based on power-hungry, expensive data centre CPUs lacking even the most basic functional safety features.

Lakshmi Mandyam
Lakshmi Mandyam, vice-president of automotive, Embedded and Automotive Line of Business at Arm

“Arm has prioritised safety for years now and it is a key reason why Arm IP is in 65 per cent of the silicon used in ADAS applications. Our automotive ecosystem has access to the industry’s broadest array of functional safety IP with the latest ISO certifications. 

“To further ensure our silicon partners get a head start on safety, today we’re announcing the Arm Safety Ready program which centralises Arm’s massive investment in safety, enabling our silicon partners and the entire automotive supply chain to accelerate their timelines for bringing safer products to market faster.

“Our safety leadership doesn’t stop with integrating the latest certifications and standards. We’re also announcing availability of the first autonomous-class processor with integrated safety, the new Arm Cortex-A76AE, which has been uniquely designed for automotive and includes Split-Lock technology, a game-changing safety innovation available for the first time in application processors.

“The Safety Ready programme encompasses Arm’s existing safe and new or future products which have been through a rigorous functional safety process, including systematic flows and development in support of ISO 26262 and IEC 61508 standards.

“Safety Ready is a one-stop shop for software, tools, components, certifications and standards which will simplify and reduce the cost of integrating functional safety for Arm partners.

“By taking advantage of the program offerings, partners and car makers can be confident their SoCs and systems incorporate the highest levels of functional safety required for autonomous applications.”

Mandyam described the Cortex-A76AE as “a game-changing new CPU uniquely designed for automotive and optimised for 7nm process nodes. AE stands for Automotive Enhanced” and any Arm IP with the AE designator will include specific features addressing the requirements of in-vehicle processing.”

A high level of processing capability is required for autonomous driving, with inherent safety as standard. Cortex-A76AE delivers both without compromise as the industry’s first high-performance application processor with Split-Lock capability, combining the processing performance required for autonomous applications and high-integrity safety. 

While Split-Lock is not new to the industry, Arm is the first to introduce it to a processor uniquely designed for high performance automotive applications such as autonomous drive.

Inherent in the Arm tech breakthrough is lower power usage. Car makers can design their autonomous systems to require watts and not the kilowatts required for today prototypes thanks to Arm’s leadership in power-efficient computing in Cortex-A76AE.

Lower-power also enables a more energy-efficient use of vehicle battery power combined with thermal efficiency to aid the packaging of compute capability while extending the range of vehicles for a lower total cost of driving.

Arm’s Intellectual Property Group president, Rene Haas, moved into the new role at Arm two years ago, running the core IP business. This coincided with the purchase of Arm by SoftBank which gave Arm what Haas called “the unique opportunity to accelerate our investments in developing IP for new growth markets. A bit of a personal perfect storm!”

Haas says: “This was not only a great opportunity for Arm but also our entire ecosystem. However, one challenge we had at Arm was that we were more product focused vs customer/market focused and were not best suited to address the opportunity in front of us.

“We needed to shift directions and begin designing IP specifically markets such as servers, networking and automotive. Several months later we addressed this challenge by completing a major structural change and merged several IP product groups into new lines of business; infrastructure, IoT devices, client, machine learning and automotive/embedded computing.

“This now allows us to develop IP products uniquely designed based on market requirements, ensuring that we meet customers product and schedule requirements.

“The new businesses combined with SoftBank empowering us to accelerate our investments in them has made for an already busy 2018. Earlier this year, we announced our first ML platform, Project Trillium, followed by Cortex-A76, specifically designed to address the performance requirements of laptops and performance-efficiency demands of next-generation smartphones. And a few months later we shared our first client roadmap with products expected to deliver annual gains of 15-20 percent IPC performance. And today, our automotive line of business announces the world’s first autonomous-class processor with integrated functional safety, the Cortex-A76AE (AE stands for Automotive Enhanced.) 

“Cortex-A76AE and our future AE processors are a direct result of our constant discussions with carmakers who of course want higher performance and efficiency but want to see chip makers prioritise innovating for safety and ensuring their processors include the latest functional safety standards and certifications. 

Rene Haas
Arm’s Intellectual Property Group president, Rene Haas

“Carmakers are tired of seeing safety treated as an afterthought and taking a backseat (no pun intended) to performance. As Lakshmi Mandyam says, if consumers don’t trust the autonomous systems in their cars are safe, then mass market acceptance of this technology will be slow to happen.

“Arm’s AE processors will be the most safety-critical products we can and will design. AE processors will go through a rigorous functional safety process and include safety innovations like dual-core lock-step to ensure redundancy in our CPU cores. 

“In fact, we’ve integrated functional safety into other system IP including the IP connecting multiple CPU clusters and memory management. And as Arm develops more purpose-built automotive compute IP such as ML processors and GPUs, you can be certain the same safety-first principle will guide those designs.

“No one else in the industry can match our track record of delivering products with the latest functional safety standards across the entire vehicle.

“In fact, Arm is unmatched when it comes to enabling compute in vehicles. The presence of Arm IP is truly bumper-to-bumper with 65 per cent of today's automated driver assistance (ADAS) applications running on Arm IP as well as 85 percent of in-vehicle information systems.

“When looking at the future of automotive, it’s the one experience I can point to that truly represents the next transformative convergence point of advanced technologies – ML/AI, the smartphone/mobile experience, IoT and in a couple of years, 5G connectivity.

“I look at the car as ultimately being the world’s most sophisticated IoT endpoint – with integrated functional safety of course. And even though car makers want to see more compute on board the vehicle and less in the cloud, 5G connectivity will be a vital part in keeping cars safe.

“A faster, higher-bandwidth and lower-latency 5G network built for billions of connected devices will keep vehicles connected to communicate road and vehicle system data quickly back to the cloud, while quickly alerting other vehicles to potential hazards another vehicle's data may provide.”

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